Jonathan Gonzalez, the 34-year-old surfer from the Canary Islands, has been voted ‘Overall Winner’ at the 2015 edition of the Nixon Surf Challenge in association with Monster Energy, Reef and Lomography.
In stark contrast to the more familiar Basque waves in which Gonzalez scored his original victory more than a decade ago, and the more recent cold-water locations such as Russia’s Kamkatcha peninsula and Iceland, this year’s event played out in the tropical urban paradise of Hainan. Located in the South China Sea, Hainan is known as the beating heart of China’s rapidly expanding surf industry.
Nixon Surf Challenge defending champion, William Aliotti (FRA) says: “Kamchatka was always going to be a tough act to follow, but Hainan has so much undiscovered potential. I’ve heard great things about the island, but never had a chance to go there – it’ll be a first for pretty much everyone on the trip, which is pretty rare given how much we all travel these days. I can’t wait to get out there.”
This was the second time Gonzalez had been awarded this prestigious prize by his peers in a long and illustrious career as one of Europe’s most prominent surfers. “More than 10 years after winning the same event in San Sebastian, this second Nixon Surf Challenge victory holds special meaning for me, but for very different reasons,” said a victorious Gonzalez en route for the airport. The win didn’t come easy for Gonzalez, either. In humid, hot weather with temperatures often hitting the mid-30s, Mr. Consistent Marlon Lipke (GER) and Gony Zubizarreta (ESP) were both also in contention throughout the five-day contest window, repeatedly demonstrating why they too continue to occupy positions at the very pinnacle of the European surf scene.
The surfers, including adventurer Kepa Acero (ESP) were kept on their toes throughout the event by high-energy young guns including aerial specialists William Aliotti and Gaspard Larsonneur (FRA). But when it came to ‘Best Trick’, it was the turn of another Frenchman, 2013 edition winner Vincent Duvignac (FRA), to blow the doors off with a flawlessly executed and grabbed 360 to revert.
“While I would have loved to win the whole event again like I did in Iceland, nailing ‘Best Trick’ on the last day of the trip really does give me a lot of satisfaction,” said Duvignac, the 2013 edition winner. “From the moment I paddled out, I was just waiting for a wave and section that would give me enough speed to launch a big manoeuvre. Hearing everyone cheering in the channel when I put the trick down was a great feeling, and that spirit of camaraderie pretty much sums up the Nixon Surf Challenge.”
Nixon Europe veteran Eric Rebière (FRA) was undoubtedly one of the trip’s standout characters, as evidenced by his ‘I Rocked China’ accolade. As a long-time Nixon Surf Challenge competitor, Rebière put this year’s event in context: “Over the years, we’ve explored some of the most remote and inhospitable surf spots on the planet. Not exactly easy to get to, Hainan will leave a lasting impression on everyone for different reasons, with its seemingly endless rows of empty beach-side skyscrapers – in some ways a bit like Hawaii and Miami, but with its own Chinese twist. With waves like that, and China’s ability to build the unthinkable, it’s going to be a place to watch in the future for sure.”
But in the end, Jonathan Gonzalez’s clean, smooth style stole the show. Blowing tails in every direction and linking sections with effortless ease despite the often challenging conditions, Gonazalez reminded the new kids on the block that there is life in the old dog yet. As he boarded his long flight taking him back to more familiar territory, Gonzalez added: “I couldn’t be happier right now. Time stands still for no-one, and it’s a really great feeling to know I can battle it out with these guys, and still hold my own!”